Lee Valley Tools Gardening Newsletter
Vol. 2, Issue 3
June 2007
Plant Patents

In the last few years, I have noticed that the tags on more of my plant purchases are getting bigger. This is not to compensate for declining boomer eyesight but rather to accommodate words like "Asexual propagation prohibited" and "Plant Patent Applied For" or "PPAF", as well as an array of trademark names.

Plant tags
Many plants these days are sold with significantly large tags, such as the ones shown here, in order to accomodate brand names, trademarks and patents.

Today's plant tag might look like this hypothetical example:

Lorri's Lovely®
Golden Sparkles™ Sunflower
Helianthus annuus 'Shimmer'
Asexual propagation prohibited by law

To decipher these various names, trademarks and patents, we need to understand that horticulture has a foot in both the science and commerce worlds.

On the science side, wild plants are given names in an internationally agreed upon way, based on a system that Swedish scientist, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-78), is credited with creating. Today, the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature governs this system.

Under this code, a plant's genus name (which is usually in Latin, capitalized and italicized) and species name (Latin, italicized, but not capitalized) form the plant's scientific name. In the example above, Helianthus annuus is the scientific name.

If there is a third word (not in Latin, not italicized, but enclosed in single quotation marks) it identifies the cultivar, short for cultivated (i.e., not wild) variety. In the example, it's 'Shimmer'. This is where we start to move from science into commerce.

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